Thursday, December 06, 2007

Recently I've become obsessed with coveing my face, with hiding from the world. It happens most often on public transport: on trains, and buses, which sadly I have succumbed to taking much more in the last few months. Sometimes I wish I could wear a veil that would protect me from the wind, the rain, and the looks of strangers. But the cultural connotations of the veil preclude this option for me. So I have resorted to other means, such as letting my hair grow, until I now resemble a small shrub; and wearing the hood. When I am wearing the hood, I can see less (my field of vision is obstructed on both sides) but others can see less of me. Hooded, in a dark empty street, it's harder to tell if you're a man or a woman, angry or happy, a bum or a productive member of society(TM).

To some extent, this is about personal safety. On a bike I always felt protected from the city, like a knight on a horse, escaping unpleasant encounters by quickly turning the pedals, and arriving straight home. Coming back on foot, after midnight, to an east London estate, feels different. But real or imagined danger is not the main issue. It is about being exposed to society whether you want it or not.

In retreating to my hooded shell, I am following the rule of this city, not the exception: the rule of no-contact at all costs. Read your rubbish-newspaper; listen to your i-pod music; murmur sorry every once in a while; block out any disturbances. Ignore your fellow humans. I have always found it strange how people of all origins take on this attitude; Polish or Jamaican, everyone adapts to the London etiquette.

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